Sennheiser HD25SP

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I’ve always been told that the Sennheiser HD25SP is an inferior variant of the HD25-1 and so I never really bothered checking it out. Then, a few weeks ago two of my friends bought the HD25SP and said good things about it. The interesting thing is that they also own the HD25-1 and while the HD25SP is not quite as good as the HD25-1, both of them agreed that the HD25SP is a very good headphone in itself, and a much better value for the money (the HD25-1 sells for ~$300 outside of the US).

I finally got a loaner unit from my buddy Sem, and so I’ve been listening to it for a while now. The first thing I noticed is that although the build quality is identical, I didn’t quite like the slimmer headband of the SP model. For some reason it doesn’t hold the headphone in my head as well as the split headband of the HD25-1. The headband of the SP also clamps less, and the result is a looser fit which also lets more noise in and out. Now some people may appreciate the looser fit, but for me I’d take the firmer grip of the HD25-1.

When it comes to sound impressions, I must say that although the SP model is a notch down from the HD25-1, indeed it is still quite a good headphone in its own. It’s like comparing the Grado SR125i to the SR325is: nobody ever said that the SR125i is a bad headphone, just not quite as good art he SR325is. Most noticeable is the darker sound signature which at first may come out as sounding less detailed than the HD25-1. Yes, if I really go hard with the A-B comparison, the HD25-1 still reproduces a tiny better low level detail, but in reality the biggest difference certainly comes from the treble levels, where the HD25sP is more relaxed on the treble and instruments. If you happen to buy an HD25SP and feels like it can use more treble, the first thing that I’d recommend is to get the HD25 velour pads as it’ll give more treble as well as helping the phone to sound more open (the same effects can also be found on the HD25-1).

Another difference that I found between the two is that the HD25SP has less attack than the HD25-1. Still quite a forward headphone, but not as decisive as the HD25-1. And though bass body is fuller, the HD25-1 feels more impactful and tighter. It’s not quite a night and day difference, but it’s enough to make a difference in the energy in the music. The HD25-1 clearly rocks better, but the HD25SP is far from a laid back Hifi headphone too. In fact, the darker nature of the HD25SP makes it a better headphone for treble happy recordings.

Although the nominal impedance ratings are lower on the HD25SP, in reality it needs to be driven louder from the amplifier. The lower efficiency number at 114dB at 1kHz, 1Vrms is probably the cause here. The more limited frequency response range is not that bothersome for mainstream and casual music listening, and is only evident on critical listening sessions.

If I were moving A-B between the two headphones, it’s very evident that the HD25-1 is still the better model. Most evident is the more precise timbre and the minimal amount of reverb I get with the HD25-1. However, the HD25SP in itself clearly makes for a good $130 headphone, and for a lot of people it should be a better value for the money than the $300 HD25-1 model.

 

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  • http://twitter.com/ontheedgeaustin Austin Morrow

    Nice review, Mike. Always a joy to read. I can see myself picking up one of these in the not so distant future, I hope.

  • http://www.facebook.com/destroysall Chris Allen

    Very nice review, Mike.  Love the header picture.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks, Chris.

  • Quentin

    Very good review, Mike. I have one question though, the specs say the HD25SP has a 3m long cable. Does the length make it annoying for portable use? Thanks!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Definitely, and it’s terminated with 1/4″ too so it’s good to have a different cable.
      I should update the gallery with a picture of the stock cable. Sorry, been using the HD600 cable since it has a 1/8″ termination.

      • Quentin

        Ahh, that’s disappointing. I guess custom cables are the way to go with these cans then ;)

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Yes it is disappointing ..

          I guess I failed to realize that (and mention it on the review) since I happen to have cables laying around (being a reviewer and all).
          I will update the review with the picture of the cable.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          That’s true. As long as the custom cable don’t get overly expensive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/syakir.zainol Syakir Zainol

    Compare it to HD-202, Mike?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      HD202 is more laidback and darker, typical laid back Senn sound.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mampus Ijul Naera

    Detachable cable like HD25-1? :D

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Yes, clearly on the pictures you don’t see any cables. :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UGJ3SZR3YRF4O4IZBPFIOIVFII Eugen

    Mike, I had a HME25-1 that had the same specs as the HD25SP, I think it was the same headphone with a condenser microphone attached. FIY, the best HD25 is the HD25-13, I had one of those too. Now I have a HD250 Linear II with a microphone, a custom model. It’s the best headset I’ve had by far (had a Beyerdynamic Manufaktur MMX300 for a while too).  The fact that it’s also a headset it the cherry on top. :)

    Anyway, new stuff from Sennheiser just came out, HD700, Amperior and what I consider the most exciting one, the RS220 – there’s talk of HD600 performance while wireless.  Any plans for reviews?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks, Eugen. Still looking to audition the HD25-13 one day. :)

      I’m on talks to Senn for all those models you mentioned. The RS220 is going to Lieven. The HD700 to me. And the Amperiors, still not confirmed, but hopefully we can get it. :)

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UGJ3SZR3YRF4O4IZBPFIOIVFII Eugen

         Actually, the HME25-1 was 600 ohms like the HD25-13. There’s no reason to buy the 70 ohm headphone, the 13 sounds better and doesn’t need an amplifier at all, it’s very efficient just like the  70 ohm version.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Nice. That’s good to know.

  • Lior Amsalem

    Hi Mike,
    The opportunity came and I need to decide, HD-25-1 or HD-25-13.
    I have Bottlehead crack amp at home that I’m sure will like the 600ohm. But I need this HP on the road and at work as well. (my current one is HD-600). 
    I do plan on getting a portable amp in a few months.
    Which one should I get HD-25-1 or HD-25-13?

    Thanks!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Go with the HD25-1 and use the HD600 with the Crack?

      • Lior Amsalem

        HD600 is staying at home with the crack.
        On the road/work/sometimes home, what i’m asking really is: will the HD-25-13 response better to amplification then the HD-25-1? I’m planning on buying portable amp anyway in the near future. (plus I’m getting a better price for the HD-25-13)

        Thanks!

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Oh, okay. I don’t really know as I’ve never tried the HD25-13. But in general, dynamic headphones tend to sound cleaner when the impedance is higher.

          • Lior Amsalem

            Thanks Mike,
            What do you think of the O2 amp with the HD-25? 
            I want to build one for my work setup to use with the HD-25 I’ll buy.
            Also, even if you’re not very familier with the 600ohm version, you do have tons of experience more then me, is there any reason it’ll not push the 600ohm version right?

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              Hi Lior,
              I think it’s a good set up. Just a little big for a portable amp.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rūdolfs-Putniņš/100001284307683 Rūdolfs Putniņš

      Not really sure why are you so eager to amp the HD25-II, power/voltage wise it will have plenty from almost any player. If you look at Tyll’s measurements then you’ll see that even Grados are harder to drive.

      I’d amp them only for added refinement if I can get good line level signal. Other than that… Not sure.

      • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

        An amp would still improve the punch and impact.

  • Lior Amsalem

    Hi Mike,
    At the end and after a listening session in store. I’ve decided to go with the HD-25-1. :)
    Thanks for all the answers.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Nice! The HD25-1 is a very popular headphone and a lot of people love it.

  • http://twitter.com/JoetheArachnid Benedict Brown

    I can’t think of anywhere I’ve seen the regular (non Adidas one) HD 25-1 for $300. I bought my pair in Copenhagen (which is already pretty expensive) and they were still only 1,400 krone or $250.

  • 进 杨

    I prefer laid back sound, seems HD25 is not my favor.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Yes it is not laid back. Try the Philips Fidelio L1. 

      • 进 杨

        But I love sennheiser, like HD650, PX100II and CX500.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Yes, and the Philips L1 is laid back like Senn too. 

          Or why don’t you just get the HD650? 

          • 进 杨

            I’ve had a HD650 already, and looking for an 
            on-the -go  “HD650″  .

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              I think the L1 is quite similar to the HD650. It is dark, laid back, full bodied mids and lows. The treble is a little darker than the HD650 though.
              One thing you have to keep in mind is that it’s an open back headphone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/realq86 Chi-Hwa Michael Ting

    Mike,

    Love your review as usual, they are detailed to the point.

    I like your views on HD25 series’ build quality compare to its competitors, mainly the DT1350 and the ESW9.  I know sound quality is the most important for this circle, but I’m constantly shocked by the popularity of the HD25-1 when my impression of it is barely better than what they hand out on international flights, and from your pic of the HD25sp its no different.

    I value sound quality too but I also value craftmanship too.  I love Audio-Technica (also a bit of Sony fanboy) because their products are finely polished no matter of the price point down to the ~$50 clip-on EM7, they are like Toyota and Hondas: they may be plastic but its finely built!

    At $50 I also own a pair of Sennheiser CX680 sport earbuds while I don’t have a problem with the sound quality, at the same price I’m very sure the AT and Sony would of done a better job in build quality.

    Back to the HD25-1, I’ve been offered to audition it but every time it gets handed to me I pass it down because I just couldn’t ask myself to accept something so poorly made especially at close to $300.  The ESW9 and DT1350 are tremendously finely built!  The ESW9 is typical Japanese, light fine lines on fit and finish just like a Lexus.  The DT1350 is classic German just like a BMW with luxurious materials.

    I know I sound like a Sennheiser hater by now… maybe I should keep quiet on my experience with the HD650…

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Very interesting take on the build quality aspect there. A lot of people actually like the industrial build quality of the HD25-1. :) 

  • http://twitter.com/wichogt Luis Trujillo

    how does this one compares to the Marshall Major since you said the Major is a baby HD25-1?

    also in addition to rock do you consider those 3 headphones to be good with electro hop, R&B, house music?  or maybe you can recommend something more suited.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Good question.

      Overall fidelity is lower on the Marshall Major, but the Major is more forward than the HD25SP.
      I think as far as a headphone recommendation goes, either of the three should be okay for all of those. But ideally, the electro hop and house music stuff would be better if you can use a different, darker headphone like the AIAIAI TMA-1.

      • http://twitter.com/wichogt Luis Trujillo

        I see, I’m interested in the TMAs I just thought that they are too much genre specific but I guess I’ll have to get a couple different headphones and deal with it. 

        also I recently saw a video review on the V-80/M-80 and they got classified right at the level of the HD25-1 II and DT1350 so It made me curious + the build quality seems great, it’s good to have so many choices but it’s hard to make my mind specially when I have to import everything.

        thanks Mike. 

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          The Vmoda M-80 is a nice headphone. Good treble sparkle, spacious, punchy impactful bass. Faster pace than the HD25-1, TMA-1, and the DT1350. The mids are a little recessed, and that’s my only complain with it. The bass is very addictive. Extremely fast, faster than the HD25-1, TMA-1 or the DT1350. But I haven’t quite tried it with House, and I’m not sure if the voicing is going to be good for house.

          • http://twitter.com/wichogt Luis Trujillo

            I see, I’ll take that in mind before choosing. It will be my second pair of headphones and I’m guessing it wont be the last one so I’m not too concerned if it doesn’t play everything perfectly(which one does anyway).

            thanks for the help.

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              You’re welcome, Luis.

  • alundra311

    Mike,

    Just found your site about a month ago from the forums at head-fi.org and I love browsing the site and reading your great reviews. I bought the ATH-SJ55 from reading your review of them and I love them. The only other headphones I own are a pair of skullcandy IEMs, which eventually got replaced by my first ever senns, the CX300-II.

    Now, I am looking to buy a new pair of headphones and am deciding between the ATH-M50 and the HD25-1 Originals (I’ve been leaning more towards the HD25-1 lately). And, with the new Amperior variant of the HD25-1 coming out, I’m hoping you can do a review of them to see if they’re worth the $100 premium over the Originals (price is based on the Sennheiser USA website).

    Thank you and more power to your site.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I think the HD25-1 is a lot more fun than the M-50. And yes, I’ll hope I can do a review on the Amperior soon. 

      • alundra311

        Wow. Thanks for the quick reply. :)

        Just a quick question, what does the impedance on headphones do/affect? I’m seeing 70, 60, and 18 ohms for the HD25-1, 25-sp, and Amperior, respectively.

        Thank you.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Generally, the lower the impedance the more current the headphone would need. The higher the impedance the more voltage the headphone would need. But there are other variables as well such as housing and driver design that come into play.

          • alundra311

            So, basically, having a lower impedance rating means it would need amplification. Is this correct?

            Oh, and, please forgive my ignorance about these things. :)

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              Well, this is why I said that there are other variables beside just impedance ratings. The size of the driver, for instance. Say between a 20 ohms IEM and a 50 ohms headphone. The headphone most probably would need more current than the tiny IEM, despite the impedance ratings.
              So, other factors to consider are:
              - Size of the driver
              - Housing design, open/closed
              - Sensitivity ratings
              - Size of the housing
              - Distance of the drivers to the ears

              I think all of that would affect the demands on the amplification.

          • alundra311

            Thank you so much for clearing that up. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stefan-Jobling/511307488 Stefan Jobling

    The 25SP was my second “quality” set of cans and i love them unlike my sr60s which are dead and buried these are bullet proof and if they aren’t the be all and end all of quality as a robust travelling option they offer comfort resonable isolation and a good price/performance balance which means im never afraid to toss them in a bag and worry that they might be damaged at the other end. I have since moved on to a pair of shure se535s but still a good set of cans if you want a back up which will not break unless you are really hard on them.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Good impressions, Stefan.

  • SoundEskimoo

    Oh gosh the MSRP only $130? I still looking that kind of price here. If so cheap I will choose it from $300 hd25-1 ii anytime for daily easy music listening. Anyway I’m not a DJ/broadcaster ENG/music maker! Really a good deal

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Yes it’s a really good deal.

      • SoundEskimoo

        I found the price here is $200. still good bargain? If not what other choice I had (as nice as HD25-SP)?

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          How much is the HD25-1?

          • SoundEskimoo

            HD25-SPii about 200 bucks, HD25-1ii about 350, Adidas about 400. Asia MSRP =p value ratio not so good eh?

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              Ouch that’s a tough choice. I’ll leave it up to you to decide then. ;)

              Perhaps try to find a used HD25-1.

              • SoundEskimoo

                Yes I will talk about it later. Thanks

  • Jin Y

    Can HD25sp’s headband be used on HD25-1? HD25-1 is too tight for me.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I don’t quite remember, but looking back at the pictures, I don’t think you can use it for the HD25-1.

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